The General Factor of Personality (GFP): Its Current Status and its Presumed Relation with Life history Strategy
Dimitri van der Linden1
1Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
It is widely acknowledged that a general factor of intelligence (g) exists in the domain of cognitive abilities. The implications of this general intelligence factor for various life outcomes have now been confirmed in numerous studies (Jensen, 1998; Hernstein & Murray, 1996). In the domain of personality however, the existence of a general factor to date remains a rather controversial topic with many questions yet to be answered. The notion that a general factor of personality (GFP) exists is not new as it was already mentioned by Galton (1887), and after that by several others (e.g., Hofstee, 1993). Yet, systematic research on the GFP started from 2007. The GFP emerges from the intercorrelations of lower-order personality dimensions and consists of a mix of socially desirable traits. One of the leading explanations for the GFP is that it reflects social effectiveness (Loehlin, 2012). Specifically, high-GFP individuals may have the knowledge and ability to display socially desirable behavior that increases their chances of reaching social goals (e.g., attaining high social status, obtaining a mate). As such, some researchers have proposed that there may be quite some overlap between the GFP and social or emotional intelligence (Van der linden, Staousis, Petrides, 2012). It has also been proposed that the GFP is one of the manifestations of the so-called life history strategy (Rushton, Bons, & Hur, 2008). Life history theory provides a mid-level evolutionary account of reproductive strategies in which a fast strategy indicates a tendency for high mating effort and relatively low parental investment, whereas a slow strategy is associated with relatively low mating effort and high parental investment. The life history strategy is assumed to be related to a wide range of individual differences. Figueredo and Rushton (2009) argued that “…the conditions favoring slow life history strategy are those favoring the cooperative sociality of the GFP.” (p. 556). In this presentation I will provide a overview of the current status of the GFP and will address several questions and predictions arising from the notion that the GFP and Life History strategy are related. For example, one prediction is that the GFP should be associated with cognitive intelligence (the g-factor). Evidence on this topic is mixed. Another prediction is that the GFP would be related to a range of other Life History indicators. Evidence on this topic is stronger as it has been confirmed that the GFP consistently relates to validated measures of Life History strategy such as the Arizona Life History Battery or its short form, the Mini-K. From Life History Theory it can also be predicted that the GFP will have a genetic component indicating that it was under recent evolutionary selective pressure. Recent evidence supports this prediction. For example, Verweij et al. (2012) found that direct inbreeding indicators were negatively related to the GFP. Finally, there may be group (or national) differences in the GFP that are in accordance with group differences in Life History Strategies.